With powerful and intelligent sensors, the military will need to be able to transmit and understand more data than ever. That requires coordination of datalinks between platforms that, in many cases, were not designed to communicate with one another.
To solve for that, the Intelligent Gateway system turns disconnected platforms into connectivity hotspots for data to pass through. At Northern Edge, for example, the Intelligent Gateway, combined with a battlespace command-and-control center capability, demonstrated how the KC-135 could serve as a command-and-control node to conduct battle management and dynamic targeting.
The challenges of connectivity persist across domains. At a U.S. Army demonstration on a mountaintop in the Utah desert, a team from Collins Aerospace proved their communications system could help the military connect the battlespace and use data to make better, faster decisions.
And in the 48 hours leading up to that test, they also proved they were masters of the workaround.
The helicopter equipped with their system had an engine failure en route to the site. The pilot landed safely, and the team scrambled to recover their technology as they looked for another aircraft.
Nothing panned out.
Finally, after researching topographical maps and a making series of calls to local police, park services and a few other authorities, they had a solution. Rather than fly their system to the specified altitude, they would truck it there instead.
They arrived at the mountaintop and set up their equipment on the ground, only to encounter one last problem: No signal.
The system needed a little lift. The team found it in the back of their Humvee.
“There was a mop bucket. This plastic, beautiful yellow thing,” said Chadwick Ford, an associate director and part of the Connected Battlespace & Emerging Capabilities team at Collins Aerospace.
They put a mounting bracket on top, popped the system into place, ran the demo, and showed FlexLink, their open-system radio technology, could connect air and ground platforms to transmit targeting data to a command center several hundred nautical miles away.
“We were able to not only meet the mission but exceed the parameters,” Ford said. “What they saw was our resiliency to figure it out and make it happen with duct tape – or in this case, a mop bucket.”